Left Hand Contact Points and Vibrato

October 30, 2004 at 05:01 AM · When I took my shoulder rest off this fall, I immediately was aware of the two contact points that cradle the neck of the violin, the thumb and just above the base of the first finger. The thumb changes its contact according to which string and which position you play. But what about the other point of contact, just above the base of the index finger? I used leave the neck completely in order to get a good thick vibrato, and now it seems more difficult to do this. What do you all do?

Replies (28)

October 30, 2004 at 05:06 AM · I find the same problem. Ive been trying to learn vibrato and cannot do it(I am without rest). I have rested the headstock on the top bunk of my bed (its exact height of my shoulder), and I can produce effortless vibrato. The problem is I am using my arm, and one must use finger action.

October 30, 2004 at 05:52 AM · Interesting! I just had the exact question from a student this afternoon. I have been experimenting with different forms of vibrato and noticed that if a little rotation is used the left index finger contact can be maintained. Also if the left index finger base slides a little this also aids in pretty much keeping the contact.

I watched the violinist masterclass videos and I don't think that the L thumb should move so far under the neck. It seems that the L thumb is then supporting the violin, the base of the index finger moves away and the hand "pivots" on top of the thumb. I don't see that this is good as the hand is stressed and flexibility seems to be diminished.

I personally think that the base of the index finger should mostly be in contact with the neck, but can slide and sometimes come completely free especially in higher positions.

PLEASE note that these are my recent observations and I am in the process of discovering the answer to the same question: what role does the contact point of the left index finger play?

I would love to hear more about this.

October 30, 2004 at 09:17 AM · Taking off the shoulder rest reduces the support surface of the vln on your shoulder and changes its balance fulcrum. You should try to place vln button more to the left or to the right of your collar bone and change the angle of the vln to find a good position of the jaw on the chin rest. It should help without any change in you older thumb /index finger position.

October 30, 2004 at 03:30 PM · Strange that this thread should pop up today. Yesterday, for the first time in over 25 years, I tried to practice sans my shoulder rest. I did this due to something I read elsewhere in this forum, but also wanted to see if I could at all. I noticed no difference in my playing except a lot of discomfort due to new pressure on my collar bone AND my first finger vibrato was suddenly very difficult.

The only thing I could come up with was to shift my chin position and lay my head over a bit more on the chin rest. I liked the lightness of not having a shoulder pad, but I don't think my anatomy is cut out for playing au naturelle.

I would like to know how to solve the vibrato problem as well — for both wrist and arm vibrato when not using any sort of rest.

October 30, 2004 at 09:37 PM · I agree about feeling most stifled with the first finger. Keeping contact works for Baroque period music, and I've worked on doing vibrato this way until I've gotten to where I like the sound I'm producing and can use it when I need it, but when I want to sound really romantic, there is just no way to produce the fluid, rich vibrato I can get by moving my index away from the neck. I can move back and forth okay, but sometimes, I get stuck and it feels rather awkward. I can't get comfortable. Also, when I remove the index for my wide vibrato, my hand gets tired after a while.

Or perhaps that's from playing too much Tetris late at night.

October 30, 2004 at 10:55 PM · You know, it's funny you mentioned the thumb. It's been rather nomadic these days, likes to wander about looking for new purposes. I focused on keeping contact with the index finger today, looking for freedom and fluid movement in my vibrato within this position, and I found that the issue of stiffness could be worked out. It involved thumb position and relaxed-ness, definitely. I saw that if I played around, could actually come pretty close to the sound I like for intense forte and vibrato. See that combo, "intense" and "forte"? That psychologically stiffens up my hand automatically! What I'm seeing is that I can actually keep the contact point of the index finger and have it moving freely at the same time, which is what I was trying to get without the contact.

The more I study the violin, the more I understand the importance of prunes.

November 1, 2004 at 03:20 PM · to gain freedom in vibrato ,I personnaly lean forward so that the vln is parallele to my legs and the scroll pointed to the ground I start vibrato in first position then gradually set myself upright keeping on vibrating. When the vln is pointed to the ground your hand is free of weight;while erecting the weight increases and you have to find the right position of thumb and of the jaw on the chinrest.

Hope this will help

November 1, 2004 at 11:39 PM · Greetings,

What an interesting exercise!



January 23, 2005 at 05:53 AM · Interesting question which was never answered.

January 23, 2005 at 05:53 AM · Jim:

You don't have enough to do! LOL

Are you looking at old vibrato threads because of the intonation stuff in Bach?

In first position to get a really intense, rich vibrato, I often will pull my thumb a little more under the neck like I am hitchhiking and rest the neck right on top of the base joint in my thumb. I imagine I am "pressing" (weighting for Buri) straight through the fingerboard onto my thumb just above that joint. I narrow the focus of the center of my pad and lean way back on it (which is why I position my thumb thataway). But my index finger is barely away from the neck at all.

The key with no shoulder rest is to get the violin balanced on your collarbone before practicing any technique at all. Then to get the fingers centered and the thumb in a comfortable spot.

Raising the scroll above your collarbone level will help take the tension out of your hand.

There are a lot of good comments regarding this subject in the vibrato threads in the "technique" archives.


January 23, 2005 at 06:07 AM · I realized my baddest vibrato isn't compatible with this passage somehow. Yes, it has been a slow night.

Where are the archived threads? I don't see 'em.

January 23, 2005 at 06:30 AM · Pass your cursor over the Violin Discussion link at the top of the board. On the right hand side of it appears a menu. Go to the "Technique" link. Scroll down and check out the threads: Vibrato of Chords, Shifting, and Vibrato Help.

Isn't that where you found this thread? ;-)


January 23, 2005 at 06:33 AM · I think that's all active threads. I used the search box near there.

January 23, 2005 at 06:37 AM · Oh I just assumed it was old threads up to a point. I think discussion boards have a certain amount of space for each page. By breaking up this board into topics/sections like that, the threads remain on the board longer before they scroll off. That is what I assumed anyway. Have you found posts from way back somewhere? I'm going to do a search and try it.


January 23, 2005 at 06:45 AM · Key words in threads here pull up results in regular google very often. Thats either good coding or palm greasing or both.

January 23, 2005 at 07:00 AM · OK, I randomly checked some threads but they were all in the various topics still on the board. Hmmm... it is a mystery.

So I did a search on prunes but couldn't find the beginning. How did they start anyway? (and the smart *ss that says, "from plums" should just hold it in!)


January 23, 2005 at 07:07 AM · I have a theory on the prune thing.

January 23, 2005 at 09:05 AM · Lisa, hmm.

The thing about prunes is that you can't hold it in.

January 23, 2005 at 10:40 AM · Beat me to it, Mattias!

Nice old thread, I like it when these come back and I can review the question I had earlier. I concluded that I could keep the index finger in contact with the neck and still get a good thick vibrato by relaxing the index finger's contact point, so that it moves freely along the neck. I am also of the opinion that the better contact I can keep there, the better intonation I get. We'll see what I think another couple of months from now...

January 23, 2005 at 03:35 PM · LOL

I gave you that one Mattias.

But really, how did that start?


January 23, 2005 at 07:15 PM · It is a long story. I'll give you a shortened one here.

Almost 4 years ago a not to young violinist was suffering from tension.

We all tried to help him in numerous ways. Spa, massage, carrying a pile of eggs, even Menuhin's 6 lessons, but nothing helped.

Then, our true genious stepped forward, the man I truly love and wished was my real father, and gived the tip to use Prunes.

Somehow it must have worked, since the young violinist never contacted us again, so we can presume that it worked.

January 23, 2005 at 07:19 PM · LOL

Thanks. I've been wondering about that since I first started reading the board.

I'll tell you what prunes did for me last night! ;-)

I did a search for it and discovered an absolutely delightful thread of haiku and poems by all you guys that made me appreciate the genius in all of you! Just great!

To quote that man:



January 24, 2005 at 01:06 AM · Eating prunes daily

When the cares are burdensome

Helps the seasons pass

January 24, 2005 at 04:14 AM · All very interesting, but I'd like to expand the question. I've got the thumb and base knuckle contact points and vibrato thing without the shoulder rest down, but as I continue my journey into the world of Historically Informed Performance... what happens when you get rid of the chinrest, too? I'm very close, but have run into a brick wall... I'm beginning to fret that the obstacle is actually my wobbly, painful, dislocating joints (medical condition.). Does anyone have experience here? Are there some technical pointers I'm missing?

'Erie (-:

January 24, 2005 at 04:53 AM · Greetings,

Elizabeth Walfisch has written an inexpensive and invaluable book on this topic. You might get it by inquiring through the Strad Magazine.



January 25, 2005 at 05:57 AM · OK it finally happened. I instructed my mother to bring home .... PRUNES... from the store. I figure, can it hurt? Even without a prescription? And not checking with my physician before beginning supplementation. (Of course my mother only would buy organic prunes. Quite tasty, too).

Overnight! A huge improvement in my Bruch (and an urgent need for the plumber).

thanks, Buri!

Cheers, Nick

January 25, 2005 at 06:29 AM · Greetings,

now you are in with the big boys,



January 25, 2005 at 08:45 AM · ...'cause the big boys are in you.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Violinist.com Shopping Guide
Violinist.com Shopping Guide


Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop



Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine